Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Verdict is in...the Brain is Normal (Sort Of)!

Those of you who've been here before know that I've been having brain issues. I've been epileptic since my teen years, but for a long time, I didn't believe it because I didn't have seizures--or at least I didn't have what I thought seizures were.

Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

Ten years ago, under a long period of extreme stress, my blood pressure was out of control. I was having raging headaches, periodic tremors, short-term memory loss--pretty scary stuff for someone whose mother was a victim of strokes. My primary care doctor sent me to a neurologist, who scheduled an EEG. He informed me I was epileptic. He prescribed Dilantin, which I had taken years before but had discontinued--as I said, I couldn't ever recall having had a seizure. 

He asked me a lot of questions, determining that, while I don't have tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures, I'd had absence seizures early on, and more recently, complex partial seizures. He gave what I'd experienced a name: temporal lobe epilepsy. The EEG was inconclusive, but he was certain this was the diagnosis.

I was rattled by this revelation. The temporal lobes are on the sides of the brain--did this come from the first injury--or from a blow I sustained in a short-lived street fight back in the '80s? That blow had done some major damage to my inner ear on the left side. For a long time after that fight, I would get so dizzy, I'd stagger around like a drunk. Sometimes, I couldn't stand up at all. It was pretty bad.

Anyway, the neurologist wanted to do further testing, some of which I resisted. The idea of being confined to a hospital room, kept awake and monitored on an electroencephalogram was more than my claustrophobic self could handle. I had no doubt the seizures he wanted to observe would occur under those circumstances, but for me it was a case of being careful what we wished for. When that little beast is provoked, it comes out of its cave enraged.

I felt we were making progress, but my doctor's residency ended and he left the St. Louis area to set up his private practice in Joplin. The doctor who took over my care suggested a change in medication. Dilantin is an "old" anti-seizure drug, and there are several newer meds that have had impressive results. He prescribed Topamax. It was a disaster. The side effects were worse than the seizures.

Back to Dilantin.

By the time I was referred to my current neurologist, the seizures were more pronounced. I would have both visual and olfactory hallucinations. I love watermelon, but I could no longer eat it because it smelled so foul. Canned salmon and chili both smelled musty. I was sleeping far too much. I'd see fleeting shadows. 

My current neurologist ordered a sleep-deprived EEG and an open MRI. She also prescribed a new medication: Keppra. I was given pretty specific instructions for avoiding injury during seizures: no driving or operating heavy machinery (cancel my order for that bulldozer!), no going anywhere alone, no swimming alone, no cooking alone (as if I'd argue with that one!), no baths--showers only (please--if I got in the bathtub, I'd have to call Greenpeace to get me out!).

The MRI and EEG were normal--the first normal EEG I've ever had! This meant: A. I did not have a seizure during the testing; B. I don't have abnormal brain activity while not having seizures; and C. There's no permanent brain damage. Yay!

I expressed concern because I've been having trouble remembering words. I lose my train of thought. I still have major short-term memory issues. Having watched Mom slip away after multiple strokes and seeing what Parkinson's did to a childhood friend and Alzheimers to a longtime family friend, I wanted to know if I was at risk.

"You don't have Alzheimers," my doctor assured me. "You're far too sharp."

Hey, that sounded like a compliment! 

I guess being a writer, someone who's made her living with words, I was sounding the alarms unnecessarily. 

But I'm still epileptic. The test results also mean the Keppra is doing its job. The restrictions remain, because one can still have seizures even while medicated. But I'm fortunate to have a son who looks after me and two wonderful friends who are there for me when Collin can't be. Carolyn drives me to almost all of my doctor appointments and goes into the exam rooms with me, remembering all the stuff I forget. Cathy always offers to drive us to the grocery store or anywhere else we might needs to go. I try not to take advantage of her generosity, except for an occasional stop at the grocery store on the way home from our writers group meetings. I know how fortunate I am to have three such wonderful people in my life. There are far too many others who won't go five minutes out of their way. 

Breathing a heavy sigh of relief here....

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ultron: The World's Worst-Kept Secret!

Avengers: Age of Ultron. I've been waiting for this. I'm looking at "ready" in the rear-view mirror and crossing the border into the Great State of Impatient!

And it's still just over six months away!

The trailer was to be included with showings of Interstellar at theaters. Interstellar opens on November 7th, I believe. Collin and I were planning to go. Even if we didn't want to see the movie (we do, just for the record), we would have gone anyway, to see the first Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer.

Then it was announced on Tuesday night that the trailer would be aired during next Tuesday's episode of Agents of SHIELD.

Then, the trailer was "leaked" yesterday. Today, it's all over the internet. And I still can't wait to see the movie!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Would You Buy a Toy/Game Based on this Movie/TV Show?

Protest effects change. Sometimes. Sometimes, it just pisses people off.

If I were going to protest anything, it would be political correctness. Sorry, but it's gotten to be a real PITA (Pain In The A**). These days, no matter what you say, it's bound to offend someone. When I was growing up, we said "Merry Christmas" when we met friends on the street or interacted with salespeople while shopping for gifts. Now, we're not supposed to do that. It's been replaced by "Happy Holidays" (officially--I still say "Merry Christmas.").

It's a no-win. I never did have a good internal censor, so I do my communicating in writing, where I can edit before I hit Send--and even that doesn't always work.

Currently, a Florida mother is protesting the sale of Breaking Bad action figures at Toys R Us. I had to do a double-take on that one. Seriously? They're making toys--okay, action figures--based on Breaking Bad? Isn't that akin to adding a gag reel to the Schindler's List DVD? Some movies and TV series are made for merchandising--like Disney movies, the Despicable Me Minions, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, Star Trek, Batman, Superman, The X-Men, Indiana Jones and Godzilla. In Spaceballs, Mel Brooks pokes fun at the movie merchandising frenzy. When asked by Lone Star, Mog and Princess Vespa if they'll ever see him again, his character, Yogurt, replies, " Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money!"  

But...Breaking Bad? Seriously? In a toy store?

I confess, I have never seen Breaking Bad--but I know what it's about, and I just can't picture a high demand for Breaking Toys R Us says, in their own defense, they're sold in the "Adult Toys" section. I didn't even know Toys R Us had an "adult" section. I always thought adult toys were those items sold at sleazy little establishments that also sell porn videos and dominatrix costumes.

But if it's a success, what next? The Sopranos hitman starter kits? Or maybe The Bold and the Beautiful musical beds game? Though the soap is set in the world of high fashion, these characters spend a lot of time naked, so there wouldn't be much of an expense for extra clothing--just a bunch of naked characters and a row of appropriately-sized doll beds. When the music stops, they all fall into bed with whoever happens to be standing next to them at the time. The odd doll left standing is instantly killed by the Psycho Babe Quinn doll.

How about a Dr. Oz Guts du Jour game? Spin the wheel and find out which internal organs the good doctor will display for you. A word of caution: don't play this one right before or immediately after mealtimes. His TV show has been the most effective appetite suppressant I've ever found.

Would anybody buy a Gravity game? Players would draw cards to determine the moves of the Sandra Bullock and George Clooney characters. Once the Clooney action figure floats too far away from Bullock's, he explodes--and the player responsible is eliminated from the play.

I'd buy a game based on The Blacklist. Each player would draw a number from Red's Blacklist. They would then be given a packet of clues to help them determine what that Blacklister's next move would be. Failure to beat the target to his or her criminal act means expulsion from the game. Get it right, and you're given one clue to the real connection between Red Reddington and Elizabeth Keen.

What do you think? What movies or TV shows do you think would make good toys or games, and which do you feel would be totally inappropriate?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Riding Out The Storm

I finally have a cover for my first nonfiction book, a memoir of the darkest period in my life. Collin--who also did the photography--finished the cover last night, after much nagging on my part. I had been posting excerpts from the memoir, as well as Sam's Story, on my Wordpress blogs, but I now post them to a much larger audience at Wattpad.

Pretty cool, huh?

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Vote for the Hometown Boy (or Girl)....

I posted a question on my Facebook page this morning: would you be more likely to buy a book if the author happened to be from your hometown/state/country? Would you be more likely to spend your money on tickets to a movie if any of the actors/writers/directors were from your city? And for those of you who are fans of TV talent competitions like The Voice and American Idol--would you be inclined to cast your vote for a contestant from your area, even if they weren't the most talented participant in the competition?

This is something I've given thought to, off and on, for years now. During my years in conventional publishing, I knew several authors who spent a great deal of time and effort going to local distribution centers to put a "Local Author" sticker on the covers of every book before they were sent out to retail outlets. I never did it myself--none of my favorite authors are from St. Louis, and I don't believe it matters much. 

But maybe I'm wrong.

Last season on The Voice, there was a contestant from St. Louis. Our local NBC affiliate urged viewers to throw their support behind her. I don't watch reality shows (except for Total Divas), so I don't know if she deserved to win--she didn't win, in the end--but I can't say I would ever vote for a contestant from my neck of the woods if I thought another contestant was more deserving of the win.

Yesterday, I heard a local TV reporter make a reference to Gone Girl--part of which was filmed here in Missouri--as "the biggest movie of the year." Seriously? In a year that included movies like the latest Transformers movie, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy (yes, I know director James Gunn is from St. Louis, but I'm fairly certain his talent didn't come from having been born here)?

Gone Girl is adapted from a bestselling novel, so it's likely going to be a hugely successful movie as well--but the biggest movie of the year? Not likely.

So...what do you all think? Are you more likely to buy a book or see a movie or support a performer who happens to be from your area?

PS I have a new excerpt up at Sam's Story and will have a new one from my memoir early next week....